Capitol Journalists Opt to Lay Rep. Grimm’s Threat to Rest
Posted at 1:14 p.m. on Feb. 10, 2014
The organization representing broadcast journalists on Capitol Hill on Monday opted not to engage on Rep. Michael G. Grimm’s threat to throw NY1 television reporter Michael Scotto off a Rotunda balcony.
Radio-Television Correspondents Association Chairman Frank Thorp, who reports for NBC News, said the New York Republican’s behavior following the State of the Union was “clearly unacceptable” and it would have been “alarming” if Grimm stuck with his initial unapologetic statement, instead of later issuing a public apology.
“Obviously we condemn that kind of behavior,” Thorp said during the first RTCA executive committee meeting since the Jan. 28 outburst. “But aside from that, … [I’m] not really sure what kind of advantage there would be for us to engage any further.”
Capitol Police sources initially kept quiet about potential charges for Grimm’s threat, then confirmed that after questioning Scotto they would not be pressing charges against Grimm. The RTCA, which represents more than 3,600 broadcast journalists who report on Congress, was the only body in the Capitol still investigating potential repercussions for Grimm.
“A reporter asked a valid question, and then was threatened,” said Olga Ramirez Kornacki, director of the House Radio-Television Correspondents’ Gallery, before introducing NY1’s representative at Monday’s meeting.
Jennifer Babich, the station’s D.C. bureau chief, said NY1 would like to “mend fences” with Grimm’s office and move forward “as best as possible.”
Scotto was invited by the RTCA to attend the meeting, but he could not make it because of illness.
“In the court of public opinion, people have made a decision,” Babich said, in reference to the thousands of responses the station has received since the incident that largely support NY1’s reporting. She confirmed that Scotto has no interest in pressing charges or pursuing any legal action.
Babich, who was on the balcony during the interview with Grimm, said the station put “no parameters” on the interview. During the live interview, Scotto asked Grimm about campaign finance problems, prompting the congressman to walk away.
“Michael turned to address the camera, and wrap up the interview and explain to viewers why [Grimm] had walked away,” Babich said of Scotto. “I’m speculating here, but that is, I believe, what angered the congressman and that is when he walked back into our frame and threatened my reporter.
“We were all very surprised,” she added.”It was not something we had encountered [from] the congressman before.” Babich has been at the helm of the D.C. bureau since it was established in July 2011.
Grimm invited Scotto to lunch the following day, an invitation NY1 initially accepted.
Babich said they have not taken Grimm up on the lunch offer, but the station is in talks with his office about a potential interview about the incident.